Dear Harbor Families,
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. These are distinct yet overlapping concepts that are complex, sophisticated, and layered. So, why focus on these ideas in an early childhood school?
Research shows that young children recognize differences as early as six months old. As they move through early childhood, they engage in the natural process of making sense of the world, through categorizing and labeling. By third grade, kids are aware of societal stereotypes and are starting to repeat messages from adults and other input from their environments.
My mother tells a story of a time when we were playing with a doctor kit when I was a child. I told her I was going to be the nurse, and when she suggested I play the doctor, I agreed and lowered my voice to pretend that I was a man. My mom was horrified, having been confident that she and my dad had delivered a clear message that “girls can do anything” (as the Smurfette poster on my wall proclaimed). Yet, I had really only been in contact with male doctors in my short lifetime and had formed my own understanding.
We all know that these years are extremely important, formative years for young children. The messages in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and the media (both obvious and subtle) are constantly influencing our kids’ perceptions of the world around them. As adults, we can influence many of those environments when they are still young (but not all!).
I imagine the small, inclusive feel at Harbor is one reason you chose the school for your child. Yet all schools, and I would argue, especially early childhood schools, have a responsibility to cultivate diverse communities, strive for inclusivity for all, and reflect regularly on the use of resources and curriculum to teach concepts like identity, social justice, and anti-bias understandings. The week before the students arrived, our teachers explored these concepts in a workshop; we look forward to continued work throughout the school year.
In closing, I extend two invitations to you:
We invite you to share aspects of your family culture, background, traditions, or celebrations in the classroom. All are encouraged to share throughout the year, even for a few minutes, to enrich our students’ experiences with our community’s diversity! Reach out to your child’s teacher with thoughts if you haven’t already.
We are looking for a few representatives from the parent community to serve on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, along with teachers, administration, and Board members. The Committee will spearhead efforts to continue to elevate this important work. Please let me know if you are interested in joining us!
Head of School
The Harbor School